Health fads come and go, but essential oils have been used reliably and extensively in medicine for thousands of years.
Aromatherapy, or essential oil therapy, can be defined as the medicinal use of naturally extracted plant aromas to promote physical and emotional well-being.
Aromatic plant extracts have many uses, from treating burns and soothing skin to alleviating stress and relaxing the mind.
On babies older than 3 months, some essential oils can be used to help encourage sleep, calm anxiety, and even relieve symptoms of colic. Before applying essential oils to babies, it’s important to understand proper dilution ratios and application methods.
Lavender has many calming and sedative effects. A lavender oil massage can help to relax a fussy baby and encourage sleep.
Lavender can also be used on insect bites and to reduce itchiness. A recent study shows lavender to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of colic.
Essential oils are extremely potent and must be diluted with a carrier oil or cream when used on the skin.
Dilution is especially important for infants and young children. For babies older than 3 months, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) recommends a safe dilution ratio of 0.5 to 1 percent, compared to a 2.5 to 10 percent dilution for adults.
Because babies have more sensitive skin than adults, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians notes that essential oils should not be used at all on infants under 3 months old.
Even when diluted, essential oils can cause skin irritation and sun sensitivity. It’s recommended that a patch test (also sometimes called a “spot test”) be performed on the skin, with each new oil introduced.
Perform a patch test
- Apply a small (no larger than a dime) amount of diluted essential oil to a baby’s leg or arm.
- Wait for 24 hours to see if there is a reaction.
- If a reaction occurs, discontinue use (a reaction would likely cause redness, inflammation, or be painful to the touch).
- If no reaction occurs, it’s likely safe to move forward with applying the essential oil.